Our Responsibility as Educators

It is incredibly important that we, as educators, understand our role in standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. We have the ability to open students’ minds to new world views, and to possibly make them reconsider the views that their home environment pushed on them. I believe that we have a lot more power than we think, and that much of it comes down to engaging the students in meaningful dialogue about their own experiences. We also need to make sure, like Poplin and Rivera state, that we do not “overly romanticize or demonize particular groups of people” (2013, p.38). Many of us have seen the issues this causes—privileged groups become defensive and feel like they are being blamed for oppression, and this does nothing to help reach the goal of social justice.

With regard to human rights education, I feel that it is quite important to teach it and to start at a young age. Unlike some of the teacher concerns in the Struthers article, we do not have to begin by having elementary students memorize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I do, however, feel that it is decent to teach children what their basic rights are. Struthers writes that “reluctance on the part of teachers to address controversial issues on the basis that certain topics are inappropriate for young learners is frequently attributed to a desire to maintain children’s innocence” (2016, p.143). I think that adults need to start to realize that children are people, too, and that if we start social justice education at a young age, it is more likely to stick. Students will not have as many biases and will be more open to learning about diverse topics.

Since I am a secondary educator, many of my students have already formed opinions about social justice, prejudice, privilege, etc. I feel that my role specifically is to engage my students in discourse about these issues, so that they can learn from each other. Like Storms maintains, “through dialogue teacher candidates can broaden their perspectives and discuss strategies to promote equity in schools” (2013, p.38). I need to keep this in mind as I am teaching. We cannot promote change by shying away from these issues.

References:

Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and  Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 27-37.

Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education, 20(2), 33-39.

Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?. Human Rights Law Review, 131-162.

 

7 thoughts on “Our Responsibility as Educators”

  1. I love that you have students learn from each other! I believe when teaching about these three subjects, students learn best when hearing others experiences with the topic. Seeing how it affects people they know, opens their eyes a little more, and I feel it makes a lasting difference. Great post!

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  2. Danielle,
    You have many well written and specific points to help educators see specifically where and even begin to question how to stop injustice. I think it’s important to state policies openly such as no tolerance similar to the bullying programs that many schools have adopted. Thank you for your post!

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your post! One part that really stuck out to me is when you said, “I believe that we have a lot more power than we think, and that much of it comes down to engaging the students in meaningful dialogue about their own experiences.” I agree that educators have more power than they likely realize, in regards to HRE and creating social change. I think many educators neglect to realize how much of a positive impact they could have on their students (and society) by teaching about human rights, because they are deterred by the complex and controversial nature of the topics. However, I agree that a great deal of HRE should involve students engaged in meaningful and relevant conversations about the topics and their experiences with the issues. I feel it is important, that the discussions about human rights and social justice be relevant to their experiences so students can become aware of the ways in which these issues affect their daily lives. If students can see how these issues affect them and how they may be contributing to them, they can begin to understand how they can be part of the solution for changing. I love that you have your students learn about these topics from each other! I think this is a great way to support students in learning about these issues from multiple perspectives and forming their own opinions.

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  4. I think that you made a very strong point when you wrote: “We have the ability to open students’ minds to new world views, and to possibly make them reconsider the views that their home environment pushed on them.” Although many teachers steer clear from topics that may be seen as controversial, it is important for teachers to help students develop a sense of morality and be open to differing opinions. I applaud your efforts to maintain an open dialogue in your secondary classroom and engage your students in conversations about societal issues.

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  5. I also agree with your statements on how our teachings can positively influence or change an opinion or outlook a student might have based on an opinion talked about at home. As their teacher, we are with our students for more hours during the day then their parents are. What we say and teach in the classroom can have such a huge impact on them. Creating opportunities to teach them about different types of people and the various issues going on around the world gives them a chance to make up their own ideas and beliefs, outside of their parents’ views.

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  6. I also think that it is important that teachers understand their role. If teachers don’t understand their role they will never be able to accurately and successfully teach their students. Just like any material being taught we need to understand it before we teach it. knowing the material helps us to paint a better picture and help open students minds. I also agree and think we should teach students this at a young age. Student are more likely to care and make meaning of it at a young age. Material will defiantly have to be toned down and taught differently to younger students but as they get older they educators can teach more. I really enjoyed reading your post and you had many great points!

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  7. I think you make an excellent point and I agree that we should not“overly romanticize or demonize particular groups of people.” In fact, I think it’s crucial for all of us to understand that we all play a role and understand what that role may be. There is not one individual who is not affected by the social injustice that we see in today’s world.

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